- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 4, 2003

Six photographers focus on suburbia in "Homeland," an exhibit of photo, video and digital media arts at the Corcoran Gallery of Art. Through images of darkened neighborhoods, tract housing, domestic interiors and home decorations, the photographers create portraits of today's unpopulated suburban environments and predict possible future living situations.
The show is at once spooky and endearing. Todd Hido shoots dilapidated houses at night that appear threatened and threatening. Jason Falchook re-creates his childhood neighborhood in Florida with luscious color images. Michael Fisher and Kate MacDonnell use domestic details to portray the absent residents. Sven Pahlsson creates a modular community through digital animation that rushes headlong toward an anonymous future. Susan Black, while shooting digital videos from a moving car, literally turns her old Connecticut neighborhood upside down.
"I want the photographers to show the staging of everyday lives rather than the people who live them, "exhibit curator Paul Brewer says. He also aims to have the photos imply the hyperawareness of security in today's America, what he calls an "exaggerated paranoia." The curator points out that the practice of surveillance is a crucial issue these days and that the photographers explore it in the show.
The exhibit title, "Homeland," of course, is a play on the new Department of Homeland Security. Most of the photographers in their late 20s and early 30s returned to their suburban neighborhoods to shoot. For example, Mr. Falchook, 26, grew up in the Sunrise section of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and left at 18 to earn a bachelor's degree in fine arts from the Corcoran College of Art and Design. He lives and works in the District.
He turned to photography just last year. "I was a painting major in school, but I got frustrated with painting and started taking photos. I felt I had much more control with a camera," Mr. Falchook says. Still, his images are the most painterly and colorful in the exhibit, especially with their plexiglass, non-reflective surfaces.
For the exhibit, the photographer selected six pictures for which he had employed his signature soft-focus-against-hard-edge style, from his series "Light Scratching the Trajectory." For "Untitled," he says he lay on the ground to photograph the neighbors' turquoise-colored home through surrounding grasses. Shooting with his Nikon N70, he enlarged the minutely detailed stalks of the foreground, then misted the middle and background. "I felt I was lurking," he says.
Mr. Falchook alternated soft and hard focus in "Unfurled/Repose," an image concentrating on the pool in his parents' back yard. Again, he shot from ground level to show what he calls "the possibilities of the human eye's exaggerating mechanics."
The sharply delineated rough textures of the pebbles of the pool walk make them look real. He only partly blurred the blues of the pool, while the house in back is misted to make it barely visible.
"Interstice" shows the closeness of his family's house to its next door neighbor. Though set close together, the houses have privacy through their small windows. He says he photographed from between the structures. "Obviously, this made me vulnerable, as I shot from an exposed position," Mr. Falchook says.
Mr. Fisher and Miss MacDonnell photograph the insides of suburban homes. She creates a kind of alternative portraiture by zooming in on homely details: a footprint on a bathmat and a blue-screen TV draped with a diaphanous, embroidered cloth.
He, also, shows the absent occupants of the homes through their possessions and the way they arrange them. "Untitled (Christ Picture)," taken at his grandmother's house, pictures a perfectly centered group of religious images over a sofa. "Untitled (Novels)" reveals even more. A photo of his grandmother's bedside table with its stacked books and vase of dying roses, it shows her love of reading and flowers.
Mr. Hido, the best-known photographer here, concentrates on the future of the home as it's known today. For mystery, he photographs at night from a distance and uses only the site's available light. Mr. Hido looks for houses that appear deserted or those beginning to decay. The occupants seem to hide behind houses that are fortresses forbidding, closed structures of mortar, brick and concrete with tiny doors and windows.
They could be the people of Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World." In any case, this adventurous exhibit illustrates again and again that the 20th-century introduction of suburbia is the perfect setting for today's dehumanization.

WHAT: "Homeland"
WHERE: Hemicycle Gallery, Corcoran Gallery of Art, New York Avenue at 17th Street NW
WHEN: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily except Tuesdays, until 9 p.m. Thursdays; closed Tuesdays through Feb. 1
TICKETS: $5 adults, $8 families, $3 seniors and member guests, $1 students with valid ID
PHONE: 202/639-1700

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